Hipster Summer Sounds Playlist

I've been thinking about posting my good playlists for a while and just got around to it. I am moving to LA tomorrow and should be asleep, but instead am eff'in around with this. Gotta revamp the look of my site too, I guess. I take pride in my ability to put together a quality playlist and think this is a good one to start out with. This one is a good, late summer mix; laid back, little artsy, with maybe a little pretentiousness. PBR and skinny jeans not required.

Hipster Summer Sounds
(right click 'save as' to get mp3)

1. Sky And Sand (Feat. Fritz Kalkbrenner) (Original Mix)- Felix da Housecat
2. Remember The Time (Sleeper Heartbroken Remix) - Telepopmusik + Michael Jackson
3. We Own The Sky - M83
4. Dance The Way I Feel - Ou Est Le Swimming Pool
5. BTSTU - Jai Paul
6. Don't Turn The Lights On - Chromeo
7. All Summer - Kid Cudi, Best Coast and Rostam Batmanglij
8. You Wanted a Hit (Keljet Remix) - LCD Soundsystem
9. So Fine - Telepathe
10. Bulletproof (The Dirty Tees Remix) - La Roux
11. Aquarium - Nosaj Thing
12. The Day (Feat. Blu, Phonte, Patty Crash) - The Roots
13. You Got The Love (The Very Best Remix) - Florence & The Machine
14. So Here We Are - Bloc Party

-Arden Hills, Minnesota, U.S.A.-

Right now I am sitting in the living room of my parent's house, my childhood home, with my laptop on my lap, listening to the latest Portishead album. Tonight I made hamburgers and watched the Twins game on TV. I have been back from traveling for about two weeks now, and I have quickly fallen into old habits. I haven't ventured too far from this chair in the living room since finishing my last stop in Paris. I am slowly working through a list of tasks and chores that I have created for myself. My list isn't that long, and I probably should have finished up with it days ago. As I told a friend the other day, it is a fine line between patience and laziness. But I think I earned it.
I experienced many emotions in Paris. From Kuala Lumpur I flew Kuwait Airlines to Kuwait to Rome and then finally deboarding at Charles De Gualle Airport in Paris. Firstly, not to go into too much detail about the frustrating stuff; I had issues with their ATM system, using French pay phones, my credit card, and my bank. It was all resolved eventually, but pushed me to new stress levels I had not experienced while in Asia. But overall, past the banking problems, The City of Light was an amazing city. I tried to get to as many of the museums and exhibitions and sights as I could, but also made an effort to slow down and sit sometimes. Sit and observe. The thing about Paris that intrigued me so much was how social it was. People everywhere in Paris are conversing, debating, romancing, singing at all times. I found it very refreshing.

I flew from Paris to Chicago via Dublin on June 9th. After getting into O'Hare, I took the train to the Greyhound station in the downtown area of Chicago. What a place! Every kind of person in America had representation at this bus station: young, old, gay straight, punk, goth, gangster, black, white, Native American, Hispanic, boring, eccentric, even Amish. The only people I didn't see were anyone obviously rich. I was standing there looking around at the people around, that microcosm of American diversity, not really thinking about anything except the diversity in that bus station. With the exception of Paris and maybe Kuala Lumpur, I had spent the last 6 months in mono-cultures. In India, all Indians. In Thailand, all Thais. In Nepal, all Nepalese. I don't mean to simplify their cultures because there was diversity within every country that I visited, but I was not able to discern so obviously the differences of people as when I stood in that bus station. Never once in any train or bus station in Asia did the word "diversity" creep into my thoughts. But when I stood there, waiting for the bus to roll in, I had one of those moments where you stop what you are doing, the volume gets turned down, and you just say to yourself "Wow."

I am still digesting my trip and everything that I have done and seen and experienced. For me to analyze it here, well, I can't do it. To run down the list of everything I did, everything I saw, all the people I met, here on this journal, is kind of a waste of time I think. It is still manifesting itself within my brain and within my soul. How I feel about all of it now probably will change, so putting into words here, now, doesn't feel right. You'll have to ask me when you see me in person and then hopefully I will be able to articulate it properly for you.
Sample conversation: You: So how was it? Me: Good. You: Did you enjoy it? Me: Yep.

How my travels have changed or affected me is another question you'll have to save for later.

I don't think I am going to write on this anymore. Not for a while anyway. Back when I was in Thailand, riding the train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, I got an idea about writing about South Dakota. Not South Dakota specifically, but...I 've got an idea for something to write about that I may post on here coming closer to the end of summer/early fall. I doubt more than 5 people read this entry, but you'll have to check back later and maybe there will be more. More stuff about traveling in the U.S. though. Thanks for keeping up with this little experiment of mine.

Last Days in Asia

-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-
After leaving Cameron Highlands I went east to Taman Negara, a national park comprised of untouched primary jungle. Here I did a day trip into the forest and saw a few lizards (big and small), many kinds of birds, giant insects, wild boar, butterflies, a snake, fish, and probably a deer. The third night there I decided to stay in the jungle at an observation hide. I went with another German guy, and we hiked in 12 km to the hide. We were told it would be easy, but it turned out to be one of the hardest hikes I have ever done. Not only were we hiking with moderately heavy packs in the jungle heat and humidity, but the trail was up and down, crossing over streams, and at places required the aid of ropes to maneuver the trail. We were not mentally prepared for such a hike, and after every rumble of thunder and every fallen tree we had to scramble over, we grew more unsure of our decision.

Eventually we made it. The hide overlooks a small clearing with salt licks that attract animals at night. Thunder constantly rumbled as the sky grew dark, occasionally lightning lit up the sky. There was no moonlight and at around midnight it began to pour down on the tin roof, making it deafening at times. We saw no animals. One consolation for us though, was that along the hike we came across a small family of Orang Asli, the native people of Malaysia. The father was making a fire to cook a lizard, and the mother was holding a small baby. They were all shirtless, barefoot, and the women had some leaves on her head. We tried not to stare, but both parties were obviously quite curious of each other. It was a small, short encounter, but intriguing and interesting nonetheless.

After Taman Negara, I came to Kuala Lumpur. KL is a modern city with fast cars, high rises, and McDonalds. Today I bought a Sudoku book at Borders, got some coffee at Starbucks, and ate a combo meal at Burger King. I walked around in two different malls with over eight floors each, and took the light rail train to get to them. Afterwards, I bought a knock off Brazil football jersey and a fake pair of Adidas shoes. Just your average day as a backpacker in a major SE Asian city. The last two days I visited the orchid gardens, butterfly park, and the fourth largest tower in the world for a 360 degree nighttime view of KL; these places held more more merit than the shopping mails.

Tonight -or this morning- I fly out of KL to Paris via Kuwait City and Kuwait Airlines. My plane is at 3:15am, which sucks but it was a cheap flight so I cannot really complain (KL to Paris for less than 550$). Between finishing some long-winded Dostoevsky and starting some tough Sudoku, I should be able to keep myself occupied for a while no matter what terminal I may be holed up in.

I am a little apprehensive about going to Paris; I have become quite accustomed to Asian culture, the food, social norms. Plus I have no proper clothes for Paris. But I know that once I get into my hostel and put my bags down, the apprehension will disappear. I can't wait to sit down with a proper glass of wine, in The City of Light, and just people watch. That is my reward to myself for having survived half a year in foreign lands with nothing but a guidebook, a backpack, an ATM card, and of course my wit.

Thai Islands and Malaysia

-Tanah Rata, Malaysia-

So I have been neglecting my journals, both my personal and online journals. I have so busy laying on the beach getting a tan that I couldn't bother myself to sit down in front of the computer or take time to lift a pen.

I was on Ko Tao for about a week getting my scuba open water certification. This basically means that I can go diving to up to 18m. I did some extra dives after my training, because I got a great deal on it, it was convenient, and it meant I got to dive in one of the best spots in the world. I saw a moray eel, scorpion fish, blue spotted stingray, a box fish, porcupine fish, and all sorts of bright, neon, multi-colored fish. It was a blast. I made a lot of new friends while doing it, and had a whole new set of future opportunities presented to me. I had no problem spending an extra time on Ko Tao, because it is absolute paradise; blue waters, sandy beaches, and good food. I will definately be going back to Ko Tao in the future. I also stayed a few days in Ko Pangnan with a friend that I had met up in Nepal. We went to a monthly beach party and I got to see some of my friends from diving there. It was a lot of fun and hard to leave.

After spending two weeks on the islands, I went back to the mainland and headed south. Crossing the border from Thailand to Malaysia was a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. I had to take a bus, then a taxi, then another taxi (first one broke down), then walked over the border to find no buses. So I had to get an expensive normal car-taxi to a bus stop where I was told to wait for a bus that would arrive sometime that day. While sitting there a man came up to me and, well I don't quite understand how it came to this, because I think he wasn't quite clear with me, but he ended up driving me to the next town 's bus station for free, no gimmicks or games or robbery. And then he bought my ticket for me and wouldn't let me pay him back. I was completely taken aback. He leaves and I proceeded to wait for 4 hours until the bus came, and when it finally did, the ride took longer than expected, and I missed the connecting bus I needed to make it up here to Cameron Highlands (Tanah Rata). I stayed the night in Ipoh and had some of the spiciest Tom Yom soup ever made. The next day I got a bus up to here and have been pleasantly surprised. It is at a higher elevation so it is cooler, and the people are very friendly with no real hassle. I did a jungle hike today and walked to a tea plantation. In a couple of days I will head to Taman Nagara which is a primary forest that has never been logged and is thousands of years old.

I only have about 10 days left in Asia before making a stop in Paris for a week. It is strange to be winding down my trip, and having a definitive end date. But I am looking forward to Paris and being home finally and preparing for my next set of adventures. I also updated my map so you can see where I was when I wasn't writing in my journal.

Back Into Thailand

-Bangkok, Thailand-

After leaving Cambodia, I went to an Island off the northern coast called Ko Samet. It is one of the more quite islands that sees tourists in Thailand I am sure. I stayed in a guesthouse, with the waves lapping underneath my room, for 4 nights on the more isolated part of the island. The east side of the small island had the fancy hotels, restaurants, and waves. It was nice being away from the music and noise, because I know that when I get to the islands down south, it is going to loud and crazy the whole time.

I decided to come back to Bangkok after leaving Ko Samet. There was still some shopping to do for me and others, and some more graffiti to take photos of, and some more areas to explore. It started out a little rough, having to sit in rush hour traffic for a couple hours on the local bus once I arrived in the city. Having not eaten a meal for almost 24 hours I was obviously slightly fatigued. I decided before I even got to Bangkok where I would be eating. I checked into my cheap guesthouse, took a shower, brushed my teeth, and went straight to Burger King and ordered a double-bacon cheeseburger value meal. It was great. And I have no regrets about eating there. Although I ate upstairs where no pedestrians could walk by and judge me. I have wondered why I see so many westerners eating at McDonald's or Pizza Hut in the past and silently scorned them as I passed by. But, I won't be so judgemental in the future. Maybe.

Today I hunted down some graffiti in an old parking structure off of one of the main roads. There were some aggressive dogs that scared me, one very large mutt in particular. I was as surprised to see him as he was surprised to see me, I think. But I didn't get arrested or bitten or mugged, and found a really awesome piece on the fourth level, so it was worth the risk. I went in and out of the mega shopping malls and explored some of the side streets in the middle of Bangkok during the afternoon. There is an area in Bangkok that has at least 10-15 large malls, all of which put Horton Plaza and Mall of America to shame. It is amazing how much stuff is for sale here in Bangkok, whether it is on the street or in a mall. Most of it is the same stuff everywhere you go: t-shirts, sandals, shoes, bags, and other assorted clothing items. With so many people selling the same thing, I don't understand how all these merchants make a living. And the suit guys...I don't see any Thai men wearing suits, but there are thousands of suit sellers in this town (over half of which are Sikhs).

I really like Bangkok a lot, and I think that if I had to pick a city to live in that has been along my trip, I would choose Bangkok. But I cannot spend too much longer here. I need to get down south, to the islands and have some fun there.

Taking It Down A Notch

-Sihanoukville, Cambodia-

I left Phnom Penh satisfied. Even though it was a depressing place in a lot of ways, I got some stuff done that made me happy. I mailed some stuff home for a lot less than I thought, including 3 different complete series of TV shows, every Kurosawa movie created, and 10 other movies. They should keep me busy for a while when I get back. I got out of Phnom Penh and went south to the beaches at Sihanoukville. There are a few on this semi-peninsular shaped area, and I chose the cheaper area, which I am sure has less people, but is quite relaxing. The lightning from the storms last night was really great too, and was the extent of the excitement while I was here.
I am not sure who is reading this anymore, but a few of you have wondered how that I could afford this trip. Well, I have been keeping track of some of my expenditures, including guesthouse prices. Here is a small breakdown of some costs for nightly accommodations:

India - 4.75$ per night

Laos - 4.15$ per night

Cambodia - 3.50$ per night.

Most places I stay are pretty basic, with a fan (no A.C. for me) and shared bathroom. But sometimes, like currently, I have a good room with a tv and my own bathroom for 4$. But with enough practice and low-maintenance needs, you can really make any budget stretch in Asia.

I think I may get my first taste of Thai beaches in two days as I head farther west. I have loaded up on some new books and am looking forward to my improved tan.

The Heart of Darkness

-Phnom Penh, Cambodia-

I have been putting off this next entry for a while now, and having happened across a .40$ per hour internet cafe in the heat of the mid day sun, I have decided to write it and upload some new pictures. I started out in Siem Reap, Cambodia having taken an hour long flight from Pakse, Laos. I spent 4 days in Siem Reap exploring the temples at Angkor. They were quite amazing, but while looking up at the exquisite murals and stone carvings, I could not imagine the people who used these stone structures. I did not really understand or know anything about the Khmer people who made them, which lead to a rather ambivalent attitude towards the sight of all the temples I was seeing. I bought a three day pass, which allowed my moto driver to take me to lots of temples. By the time we got around to Angkor Wat on the third day I had seen enough and am afraid that maybe I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time exploring Angkor and Siem Reap.

I left and made a stop in Battambang, which was pretty much a worthless spot. One incident of note from Battambang though. After having searched high and low for a sandwich from a street vendor I finally found one, which served me up Spam I think. I bought two sandwiches, two fruit shakes and went back to my room to settle onto my bed in front of the TV which was showing non stop football (soccer). I was very content, when all of a sudden, from my fourth floor window I heard a screech and a women scream. I pulled back the sliding screen and looked out onto the street to see two men laying motionless on the pavement, one sprawled out face down, the other trapped under his moto. I could see one man was bleeding from his head while someone pulled him out. He was taken away on another moto, having been hastily pulled out from under his bike, unconscious or dead, while the other just lay in the street, probably dead, his moto 15 feet away. A semi-circle formed around the man, no one approaching until the police came. They looked at him for two seconds before picking him up by the arms and legs and literally throwing him into the back of the police van like a garbage man would throw a heavy bag of trash in to his truck before driving away. The sirens were off. It certainly dampened my mood for the rest of the night.

Next day I headed to Phnom Penh. What a city this place is. There is so much I could write about and analyze, but I will keep it to a minimum. There is a confluence of history, politics, poverty, corruption, violence, and culture that form this city (and the whole country too) and give it a certain je ne sais quoi. There is a darkness here that walks the street around you, and I am sure can be found with only a slight bit of exploration and conversation. Former Khmer Rouge soldiers, who helped commit mass murder no doubt smile at me everyday and ask if I want a tuk-tuk ride (a taxi). Last night I had a man approach me and offer much harder drugs than the typical marijuana and hash peddlers known to hang around the backpacker spots all over Asia. And the most disturbing thing for me is to see all the sex tourists that are here in Phnom Penh. All over this city, pathetic men, young and old, are here to take advantage of the sex industry in Cambodia. In Southeast Asia, the sex industry has existed and has been a part of the culture long before any white man set foot here, so condemn the industry or their local customs is not my aim; Cambodian men visit 'the disco' too. I am condemning the losers who come here to take advantage of it. Phnom Penh is filled with westerners who are scumbags in their own country and come to Cambodia because here they can be somebody and not have to deal with any consequences or responsibilities. The country of Cambodia is an escape for lots of people, whether Cambodian or Westerner, and for that reason I cannot quite make my mind up on my opinion of this place. The air is different here than any place I have been so far.

And I have not even touched the whole war part of the equation. I have been reading a lot about how the Vietnam War spilled over to Cambodia and how the Khmer Rouge came into power, and what atrocities they committed. I visited The Killing Fields and S-21, and read books about both of them. I have seen the lowest possible denominator that humanity could move to the last few days. It could be this heavy reading and extremely violent images and places that I have been immersing myself in has led to this pessimistic view of Phnom Penh and Cambodia. I am definitely ready to move back into Thailand, to hit the beaches and do sunbathing and scuba diving.

Some other updates, I did not get into grad school at U of Washington, so my plans for moving up to Seattle this fall have been changed drastically. I have formed multiple contingency plans in my head that now have a chance to be acted upon. There are still many more countries I have yet to visit. Also, I bought a plane ticket that will get me half-way home to The States. On June 3rd I will be flying from Kuala Lumpur to Paris. I am quite excited to be able to go to Paris and think it will be a good way to wrap up my trip. How I am going to get from Paris to Minnesota is another matter to save for another day.

Laos is Hot

-Pakse, Laos-
I have been traveling around Southern Laos for the past few days, going from town to town. I recently visited Si Phan Don, a group of islands scattered in the Mekong near the Cambodia border. It was very beautiful there. Our bungalow overlooked the green Mekong and out onto the green islands and large trees that sprout out of the river. During the day it is very hot and humid, so many hours have been spent trying to minimize movement and activity. I have really enjoyed my time here in Laos. I have been doing a little exploring here and there, but for the most part I have spent the last week riding in shared taxis or taking bus rides and sitting in a hammock or in a restaurant drinking a fruit shake.

Tomorrow I will be taking a short flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. I will probably spend 3 or 4 days exploring the ancient ruins at Angkor.

Not On the Slow Boat Anymore

-Vientiane, Laos-

So last entry I was a little bored. How things can change. After leaving Luang Prabang, I made a stop at Phonsavan, a dusty town with boring buildings lining the main street. One of the reasons for such a non-descript, average looking towns is because it is not the original site of Phonsavan. The town was moved after the Americans bombed the original Phonsavan during the secret bombing campaign in the late 1960's-early 1970's. Large holes litter the green hills in this part of Laos, often exposing red-brown dirt where no grass or crops grow. Throughout the small villages, bomb casings and old military scrap metal are used as supports for buildings, used to pot plants, and melted down to make tools. It is sad and quite hard to relate too. Still today, everyday, there are organizations scouring the Laotian country side, diffusing small unexploded bombs that are scattered everywhere. It is just an everyday reality that these people live with, that while tilling their rice or playing in the fields, that they may stumble across a bomb. The Plain of Jars is here too, filled with big, 2000 year old, rock jars with unknown purpose. Even here, bombs were dropped and, and the entire area is still not cleared completely.
From here I headed south to Vang Vieng. This small town had lots to do. I ended up meeting up with some other Americans and a Canadian who I had met on the slow boat a few days ago. We went tubing down a river filled with bars and rope swings and loud music (in Laos?). It was a strange place. The town is filled with restaurants that have low tables so you can lay out, and tv's that show movies all day, or the Vang Vieng special, "Friends". These places show "Friends" all day, and I think it is really stupid. We also biked about 8-10 miles outside of the town and went exploring into a big cave. At the end of the trail was a pool of really cold water that we jumped into. It was completely dark except for the stupid little lights they gave us, so jumping into a dark pool of water, swimming off into a pitch black cave with stalagtites above you, and dripping water in the distance, it was very exhilarating.
After a few days there, we came down to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. It is quite here with very hot days. We went bowling the other night. It was very embarrassing with none of us breaking 100. It was fun though. From here I am going to head down to southern Laos for a few days before going into Cambodia.